Comets and Meteors in the Islamic World

  • David CookEmail author
Living reference work entry

The Muslim records on the appearance of comets during the premodern period are fairly extensive, but they are scattered throughout the entirety of Arabic and Farsi literature rather than localized. There is no unified term for comets during the premodern period: names such as najm dhū dhū’aba/dhūa’ib (a star with locks of hair), najm dhū dhanab (a star with a tail), or the same combinations with kawkab (planetary body) are interchangeable inside the literature. Eventually in Arabic, najm came to mean “a fixed star” while kawkab “a planetary body” but there are plenty of exceptions to this rule.

In general, the appearance of comets was a disturbing event, and they were usually considered signs of the end of the world. As such, comets were often ignored in standard astronomical treatises since they did not conform to the Ptolemaic patterns of fixed and moving stars (planets). However, unlike in other cultures, there is no evidence that the appearance of comets in the Muslim world...


Greek Philosopher Muslim World Planetary Body Islamic World Heavenly Body 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rice UniversityHoustonUSA